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A decorative map of Rome, with inset views of ten major churches and structures, including St. Peter's and the Vatican. A key identifies a number of buildings, which are shown on the map. Other insets as well as text add further information to the work. This work originates from Chatelain's monumental seven-volume Atlas Historique, one of the most famous and prolific works of the early 18th century.

The detail on this map is extensive. Nearly three hundred structures are shown individually out of three hundred and twelve indexed sights. Shown are tiny chapels, tall monuments, extensive fortresses, detailed basilicas, and much more, and the representation of these structures is fairly accurate. The most important buildings are shown in much greater detail in the insets. Another inset shows the surrounding region from the Mediterranean to the edge of the Apennines, with towns and rivers included. Text at the bottom names all the major artworks that can be found in the city, alongside their location and their authorship.

This map was explicitly targeted at people visiting the city from afar. These voyageurs would have been able to refer to this map in order to gain a better insight into the city, deciding which sights they would have wanted to visit. The church insets might have informed them as to which best-suited their tastes. The ingenious grid system would have helped them locate these landmarks more easily. They could have also used this work to decide which day trips they might have wanted to take from the city using the inset of the surrounding countryside, or decided what artworks they wanted to visit. While new landmarks have been built up over time, and other monuments destroyed, much of the eternal city remains the same and a twenty-first-century tourist using this map would be able to plan a successful trip to the city.

While some travel, especially religious, had always occurred throughout Europe, this map was published just when the Grand Tour was starting to become a rite of passage. Italy and Rome were considered to be the highlight of any Tour, epitomized by Dr. Samuel Johnson's quote, "A man who hath not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see." Travelers were eager to have souvenirs of their travels, which created both large markets in the trades of both antiquities and maps. It was against this backdrop that the present map was produced.

The differences between this map and a typical twentieth-century pictorial map are surprisingly slim, and one almost expects to find advertisements for "the best pizzeria in town" on the verso. While there are some obvious stylistic differences that have evolved over time, for example the handwriting or the engraving of the river, the low-angled viewpoint and style of showing important individual buildings is strikingly modern. Seeing as modern pictorial maps tend to be produced for tourists, as was this one, this similarity perhaps becomes less surprising and provides an insight into how maps might best convey information.


Chatelain's Atlas Historique

Henri Abraham Chatelain first published his Atlas Historique in seven volumes from 1705 to 1720, targeted at an audience eager for all types of information. Particularly focused on geography, Chatelain also touched on cosmography, geography, history, chronology, genealogy, heraldry, and much more. Several volumes would be reprinted until 1739.

Many of the maps Chatelain uses were based on the work of the French cartographer, Guillaume de L'Isle. Other plates were based on the most extensive contemporary travel accounts, including those of Dapper, Chardin, de Bruyn, and Le Hay.

A major focus of the work regards newly colonized lands, which wealthy Europeans were eager to learn more about. His plates and text describe the way of life in these faraway lands, with parts of the work devoted to the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Mongolia, Indonesia, and much more. Chatelain did not neglect European subjects, describing them in detail as well.

Several plates from the work are particularly renowned, especially Chatelain's fascinating map of the Pacific and the Americas, which shows the Island of California, Korea, Japan, and many other places in intriguing detail alongside extensive text and annotations. In addition, Chatelain's title pages are attractively designed, as are the maps he uses. 

There is some debate as to the identity of the compiler of the atlas, described only as Mr. C***. Recent scholarship suggests this might, in fact, be Zacherie Chatelain, not Henri Abraham Chatelain.

Henri Chatelain Biography

Henri Abraham Chatelain (1684-1743) was a Huguenot pastor of Parisian origins. Chatelain proved a successful businessman, creating lucrative networks in London, The Hague, and then Amsterdam. He is most well known for the Atlas Historique, published in seven volumes between 1705 and 1720. This encyclopedic work was devoted to the history and genealogy of the continents, discussing such topics as geography, cosmography, topography, heraldry, and ethnography. Published thanks to a partnership between Henri, his father, Zacharie, and his younger brother, also Zacharie, the text was contributed to by Nicolas Gueudeville, a French geographer. The maps were by Henri, largely after the work of Guillaume Delisle, and they offered the general reader a window into the emerging world of the eighteenth century.